AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent his strongest signal yet about the labor movement's frustration with the dysfunctional politics of the moment -- where Republicans go to extremes on behalf of big banks and multinational corporations, Democrats compromise and working families are left out of the equation.
Speaking Tuesday to the National Nurses United conference in Washington, where more than one thousand nurses from across the country rallied to begin the push to replace the politics of settling for less with unapologetic demands for a new economic agenda, Trumka found plenty of takers for his aggressively progressive message.
"We want an independent labor movement strong enough to return balance to our economy, fairness to our tax system, security to our families and moral and economic standing to our nation," declared Trumka, who in recent months has been repositioning the AFL-CIO as a force that will hold Republicans and Democrats to what he describes as "a simple standard: "Are they helping or hurting working families?"
"We can't simply build the power of any political party or any candidate. For too long we've been left after the election holding a canceled check and asking someone to pay attention to us. No more! No more!" the federation president, a former United Mineworkers union chief, shouted above the cheers of the nurses.
Then he described a scenario all too familiar to union activists: that of trying to get officials who are supposed to be allies of the working Americans to act on their behalf with the same energy that Republicans bring to aiding corporations.
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